Griffins upbeat despite 2-1 loss as they blast into Canada West ranks on special opening night

Teammates mob Hailey Maurice after she scored the first Canada West goal in MacEwan women's hockey history on Friday night (Cody Heath photo).
Teammates mob Hailey Maurice after she scored the first Canada West goal in MacEwan women's hockey history on Friday night (Cody Heath photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Despite a 2-1 loss in their inaugural Canada West game, nothing was going to spoil the party for the MacEwan women's hockey team.

After former MacEwan University president Dr. David Atkinson dropped the puck in a special pre-game ceremony at the Downtown Community Arena to mark the first home Canada West women's hockey game between the Griffins and visiting Regina Cougars, fans were in a festive mood.

And the team was still upbeat even after suffering a narrow defeat.

"I was really proud of the group," said head coach Lindsay McAlpine. "Very exciting atmosphere with a ton of alumni in the building who have done a ton of the back end work to get us to the spot we're at now. Playing in that inaugural U SPORTS game feels like a long time coming. Very excited dressing room with high energy.

"I think we played really strong. We played a tenacious game, we played our systems well. We were right with them in every area of the game – shot clock was even. I think the one thing we lacked that they didn't is they capitalized on some point blank opportunities. That was the difference in this game."

Griffins rookie Hailey Maurice had reason to smile after the contest when she scored with 1:16 left for the first Canada West goal in program history.

"It means everything to me," said the Abbotsford, B.C. product. "It was almost a surreal moment for me. Just scoring, in general, and the atmosphere in the arena and my teammates all hyping me up. I absolutely love playing for this team. Just to have the first goal means everything for me."

The tally came a smidgeon too late for the Griffins, who were unable to tie things up with the net empty. But to see Maurice score that first goal was a big moment for her coach, too.

"Phenomenal for her," said McAlpine. "She scores at every level she competes at, which is something, of course, everyone's looking for and it came to fruition tonight when she scored our first goal. I think there's tons more to come from Hailey."

Former MacEwan University president Dr. David Atkinson, who was instrumental in the drive to get Griffins teams into the U SPORTS ranks, drops the puck for captains Kyrelle Skoye, left, and Ireland Sorestad prior to the inaugural Canada West game at the Downtown Community Arena (Cody Heath photo).

Scoreless for the majority of the contest as the goalies stared each other down as if in a high-noon showdown, offence finally happened midway through the third period when Regina's Raea Gilroy one-timed a Lilla Carpenter-Boesch pass past Natalie Bender.

After the Cougars killed off a four-minute penalty, they struck again as Heather Fiske snuck a cross-crease one-timer in on the blocker side.

MacEwan had their fair share of chances to score earlier. Kallie O'Hearn hit the post a minute into the contest and Chantal Ricker almost scored one of her trademark crash-the-blue-paint goals when she whacked away at a rebound on a second period powerplay.

But it wasn't to be for the Griffins.

"We had so many opportunities, we just couldn't bury them," said Maurice. "I think we have a really good chance to beat this team. As long as we keep working like we did in this game we'll have a great chance to win the next one."

The rematch will be on Saturday (2 p.m., DCA, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).